A silent conquering army,
The island dead,
Column on column, each with a stone banner
Raised over his head.
A green wave full of fish
Drifted far
In wavering westering ebb-drawn shoals beyond
Sinker or star.
A labyrinth of celled
And waxen pain.
Yet I come to the honeycomb often, to sip the finished
Fragrance of men.
    —George Mackay Brown


  1. This is very sad. Or I should say it strikes me as melancholy, as three people I knew passed away just these last two weeks.

  2. A sublime poem, catching us in its undertow. Reminds me of Valéry’s Le Cimetière marin, which is dear to me because I have translated it. I see that Douglas Dunn writes:
    “Ignoring the cheapness of ‘wavering westering ebb-drawn’, one can go on to say that Brown’s poems revel in this ‘finished fragrance’.”
    Cheapness? He should write so well!

  3. Very fascinating find. Thank you.
    Somehow it reminds me of Louise Bogan’s work.

  4. I am attempting to study this poem for higher english! I don’t understand parts of it, and it’s confusing!

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